Posted: 5:23 p.m. Sunday, May 12, 2013
By Christian D'Andrea
Conrad Gregor squeezed the ball in his glove at first to throw the final shovelful of dirt on Kentucky's comeback chances, and walked to the mound as a SEC Champion.
A routine ground ball to second base ended Sunday's contest in Lexington, and it signaled three more weekend wins for the Commodores, who clinched the regular season Southeastern Conference title with the win. A sweep over Kentucky gave Vanderbilt 21 wins in their last 22 league matchups and gave the 'Dores the SEC crown with a week left to play in the regular season. Despite playing in one of the country's best conferences, Vanderbilt has dispatched nearly all competition to make a strong case for their selection as the nation's top seed when the NCAA Tournament rolls around in June.
Tony Kemp had eight hits in the series to push his average to .404 and solidify his claim as the SEC's top position player. Behind him, Connor Harrell continued what is turning out to be his best season in black and gold with a pair of home runs four RBI to give the 'Dores some meat in the middle of the lineup.Tyler Beede overcame some control issues to notch his NCAA-leading 13th victory in game two. He looks primed to follow in Grayson Garvin's footsteps and become the team's second Saturday starter to be named conference Pitcher of the Year.
The Commodores have developed into the country's hottest team, and that's thanks to solid play from top to bottom that leaves few weaknesses for opponents to exploit. Despite lacking the star power of 2007 and 2011's teams, these Diamond Dores have made several big statements in a season that could be considered Vanderbilt's finest ever when all is said and done. Coach Tim Corbin will have to find a way to sustain this momentum with a trip to Hoover, AL looming for the SEC Tournament, but at this point it seems pretty likely that we'll see postseason baseball return to Hawkins Field this summer. There's still plenty of work to be done, but Corbin and his boys can relax a little bit while they ride back from Lexington and enjoy the fruits of their labor for a few hours. If tradition holds true, there will be a handful of devoted fans waiting for them to bask in that glow - that is, until Belmont crosses Natchez Trace to finish up Vandy's non-conference schedule on Tuesday.